Michigan Considers Tax Break for Live Organ Donors
The Michigan Legislature is considering granting a $5,000 tax credit to those who donate a kidney or part of their liver to a patient in need.
Michigan state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) introduced Senate Bill 0456, which has received bipartisan support.
Irwin says the credit is more than a reward for a good deed.
“Live organ donors are giving an irreplaceable gift: the gift of life,” Irwin told Health Care News. “By choosing to donate a kidney or part of their liver, they also rack up many expenses that aren’t covered by insurance. Medicare might cover the cost of the actual operation, but a donor’s expenses will far exceed just one procedure.”
Cash for Organs
A financial incentive for live organ donations raises ethical issues, says David Gortler, a former pharmacology professor at the Yale University School of Medicine who served at the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.
“Along with many other bioethicists, I believe that offering money for organs is wrong,” said Gortler. “Offering any type of direct or indirect economic benefits in exchange for organ donation is inconsistent with American values.”
Although there is a critical shortage of organs, offering potential donors a tax credit is not the solution, says Gortler.
“Offering money for organs can be viewed as an attempt to coerce economically disadvantaged Americans to participate in organ donation,” said Gortler. “Furthermore, since the economically disadvantaged have been shown to be less likely to be organ transplant candidates, financial incentives for organ donation could be characterized as exploitation.”
More Than Financial Sacrifice
Gortler says he understands why lawmakers are driven to consider such measures.
“[Live organ donation] is a huge time indenture, inconvenient, expensive, and has a high medical complication rate,” says Gortler.
That’s exactly why live donors should receive a tax credit, says Irwin.
“Live organ donors have to spend a considerable time away from work,” Irwin said. “Because America isn’t great about offering paid time off for medical leave, I believe live organ donors should be able to recoup at least some of their lost wages with a tax credit.”
The National Kidney Foundations says 19 states currently offer tax breaks to living organ donors.
Ashley Herzog (email@example.com) writes from Avon Lake, Ohio.
Michigan Senate Bill 0456 (2019), Senators Jeff Irwin, Betty Jean Alexander: